Chapter 31a


Carcassonne, November 18, 8 PM


Defeated, the men went back to the suite of rooms and began cleaning up and getting ready for supper and to decide what they were going to do with the rest of their lives.  Hapgood wanted to return to his church and family.  Jon expected simply to return to the unremarkable life of early retirement.  Ivan would finish college; he would probably change majors after all he had learned in the past four weeks or so.  Of course prospects were complicated by the fact that Hans Turelli, apparently stark mad by this time but still possessed of enormous ability and resources, wished to abduct them and try to beat out of them information that did not exist. 


But going to the authorities had some advantages.  Turelli was the object of a world wide manhunt, and the civil police could hardly deny them protection or anonymity in return for what information they could offer.  The fact that they had hesitated to come forward would not be much of a problem, since it had given them the opportunity to accumulate more anecdotes which, though it might not lead to a capture, would serve the equally momentous task of fattening the daybooks of the men on the case. 


Tracy made her way to the bar.  It was not that she wanted a drink or had anything to celebrate, but she wanted to see the old fat man again, the one who sometimes breathed when he was awake as loudly as most people breathe when they snore.  There was something about him she trusted.  She had blurted out more than might have been prudent to reveal to a stranger when there were enemies about, but now she wanted to tell him more.  He had not been slow with advice before, and she could use some as well as some moral support.


Besides she had the nagging feeling that they had missed something.  Somewhere in the course of the day they had let a clue slip passed.  It was as if they were too close to the problem.  Just as the pattern of the monolithic wonders of Avebury had escaped notice for centuries because their scale was out of proportion to what was expected, just as the historical pattern of the fall of empires Jon had found by computer had lain unremarked upon by professionals, who took an interest in a single century or a single civilization, there might be something so obvious as to be invisible. 


What she wanted was a fresh and sympathetic mind. 


But the old fisherman was not there.  The bar was empty except for Konrad.  As she entered, Konrad was speaking to the bar tender.


“Do you have any pickled liver here at the bar?”


“No, we do not.”


“Shame.  It is my favorite thing.  I shall have to prepare one.  Bring me a bottle of my favorite beer, and when it is empty bring another and place it beside the first. When I can no longer spit the length of the line you may stop, and I shall pay.”


“Do not spit in the bar.”


“I do not intend to spit.  I already know how far I can spit.”


Tracy sat down beside him.  “Ah, little girl,” he said turning to her, “The one who attracts the inquisitive strangers.”


“Thanks for rescuing me.  Where are the others?  Don’t they drink beer?”


“They are out trying to get lost.”


“Is it so difficult?”


“When we stop at a place we spend the next day exploring all the roads around.  Then that night we go out, two to a motorcycle.  The pillion passenger is blindfolded.  After an hour, they exchange places, and the new driver tries to find his way back.  The last one back earns a point for the one who caused the delay.  Ferry boats are not permitted.”


“Don’t you like the game?”


“Sometimes they ask me not to play.  I am too clever.  But they will be probably all back by midnight.”


“What are you drinking?”


He handed her the bottle.  It was Mädchen Beer.  There was a picture of a buxom blond on the label.  Mädchen means little girl, doesn’t it?  That’s why you call me ‘little girl.’”


Ja, naturlich.”


“Was Mary Magdalene a Goth?

Konrad looked at her and blinked.  “Why?”


“Well it’s old fashioned German, right?  It means ‘little girl.’  Mädlein.  She was just a child.”


“She was a child at one time in her life probably.”


“No.  Let me think.  We call her that because it’s like a last name.  Or some people say she was from a place called ‘Migdala.’  But sometimes people call her ‘the Magdalene.’  It’s like her friends called her that, ‘the tiny girl,’ so they could tell her from all the other Mary’s.  At the time she was only a wee thing.  A billion people believe in the resurrection, and it’s on the word of a little maid.”

“Children can tell the truth, too, you know.”


“Yes, I know.  But it’s important.  At least I think it is.  I’m not sure.  I’d have to think some more.


“But what I am saying is this; she must have spoken German, old fashioned German.  She might have been born of a slave or even bought as a slave.”


“We shall know never.”


“But that’s why I’m thinking she was a Goth.  The German tribes that the Romans were fighting then were all Goths.  That’s why she was captured.  And she wasn’t an exotic dancer or anything.”


“No, that would be her friend Salome.  She danced the dance of the seven veils for King Herod.  People forever mix up the two.”


“And that night the two of them approached the Roman soldiers at the tomb …”


“And distracted their attention.”


“Maybe.  Or maybe they just sat down and said, ‘Look.  This is the way the world is.  This is the way the world can be.  It will cost your lives.  Are you willing to help?’”


“I do not believe that.  However from now on I shall believe that she was a Goth.  Whatever else I hear different, I shall not believe it.”


Tracy favored the motorcyclist with a smile.  About that time Rosalyn came in and sat down with them.


“I promise not to start asking questions,” she said.


“We will accept your promise and then try to trick you into asking a question,” said Konrad.


“What are you drinking?” asked Rosalyn.


“One point for us,” said Konrad.


Roslyn called to the bar tender, “I’ll have what my friend is having, a One Point for Us beer.”


They dawdled for the better part of half an hour, and then Rosalyn excused herself to go take a pee.  When she got back she said, “Tracy.  You’ve got to come see this.”  Tracy rose and followed her out.


Rosalyn led the way through two or three halls and down a flight of stairs to a long corridor that led at last to the first torture chamber ever used by the Inquisition.  


Tracy was quite familiar with recreational torture scene in Tampa. 


There were of course the flagellations that left no mark, consisting of nothing more than submitting one’s body to the rough handling of a professional masseur or masseuse. 


There were the ordinary public displays, which included people walking around with visible signs that they had permitted their bodies to be pierced and celebrated the moment with a permanent ring or stud in ear or nostril.  There was the more subtle piercing of the tongue, where the stud was only visible to an observer one was having conversation with or navel which could be conveniently exposed or concealed by arranging the clothing.  And there was the private object of torture, who kept the mutilation concealed – were it through nipple or genitalia.  There were aggressive in-your-face tattoos on arm or cheek, and there were the subtle ones on sole of foot or upon the privates. 


Most of these diversions took place in commercial parlors or in people’s homes.


Then there was the more public sort of degradation that took place in exclusive lounges that hugged the perimeter of the night club district that had been set up in the old cigar making precinct of Ybor City.  The cigar industry had fallen upon evil times with the embargo of Cuba by the United States, but the Cuban community who had worked there had remained loyal to their heritage and maintained a presence long after they were prosperous enough to move away and forget it all.


Such a success had the Ybor City festival area been that cigar manufacture had returned, catering not to the mass market but to those faithful enough or idle enough to come around and purchase smokes that were in every way worthy of the old tradition. 


These fringe clubs tended to be known only to the inner circle of the Goth society that flourished in the Tampa Bay area.  Her favorite place to hang out on nights when she did not work was housed in a splendid old building that looked a bit like an old castle.  Every night the aficionados of every age of consent gathered to enjoy themselves. 


Dress – and dress was important if one expected to gain entrance – suggested if anything that they were all vampires.  Prison pallor, hair and eyebrows dyed black and heavy makeup with a vacant look were the orders of the day.  Occasionally scarlet stained lips parted to reveal fangs, and one could only hope they were not real.


The clothing was black – black leather, black vinyl, black spandex.  Some women wore nothing but strategically placed duct tape, some less strategically placed.  A morning coat and a high hat were quite proper, as was a girl’s teddy, particularly if worn by a man.  Some men wore leather leggings that left crotch and buttocks open to expose the faded dungarees beneath, luminous under the ultraviolet in the otherwise dark room.  Denim itself had been developed in the south for France some hundred miles away as a kind of tough sail cloth. 


It was an easy place to feel inconspicuous.  Mostly the black clad crowd in the shadowed room was an indistinguishable mass.


One could enjoy listening to the music specific to the cult played at a deafening level.  One could dance.  One could watch the evocative slide shows and film clips shown on screens around the room or gaze blankly at the light shows with the same pleasure as one gazes at the flickering light of a campfire. 


From time to time in the course of an evening, someone would mount the dais, strip off his shirt and submit himself to a flogging by young woman dressed in what looked like a black leather bathing suit. 


And then there were the secret dungeons, usually a spare room in a private home.  Here there seemed no bounds to the elaboration that went into the restraint and punishment of the squirming subject.  Great wealth was invested in the furniture, garniture and instruments.  And Tracy had seen more than one of them.


But never in her life had she seen such a flamboyant display of the machinery of pain. 


The stone room was high and long with a vaulted ceiling from which depended hooks with pulleys.  Over each pulley a cable came straight down to some restraint and obliquely down to a winch. 


Pride of place was given to a rack of heavy polished wood, ornately carved with great wheels that were removable for easy transport and storage.  It had a windlass with a notched wheel and pawl for holding and stretching the victim.  It looked authentic, not a replica.  Rosalyn went over and gave it a shove so that it rumbled deeply on the stone floor.


It was a lie embodied in hard steel and wood.  “That was the point, wasn’t it,” thought Tracy.  “It was only supposed to make that sound.  It’s a musical instrument.”   The engineering of ratchet and pawl was of dubious strength.  A person pulling with the strength of despair would have applied enough force to the tooth so that the torque would have bent the arm of the pawl.  The engineering of the latches and the wheels, in contrast, was superb.  It was never intended to be used for torture.  It was only used to thunder into the interrogation chamber as a threat.


There were scattered carpets.  There were formal silk productions from the stern workshops of Iran.  There were Chinese carpets dazzling in their depth and finery.  There were Italian furs and Irish linen.  Tasseled cushions were scattered about.


Along the walls stood wooden cabinets, and hung on frames along the walls were manacles, whips, halters, masks, gags, blindfolds, spiked collars, ropes, chains, slave catchers, nooses, thumb screws and rubber tubes and hoses. 


Tracy stared and said, “O … my … God.”


“I just found it,” said Rosalyn.  “There’s got to be a rich sicko who comes here some times.  Look.”


She went over to a console and started some music.  Then she threw some switches so that the light dimmed and colored spotlights lay down pools of illumination.  “Isn’t it just groovy, Tracy?”


“Far … out.”


“And look in here.”  Rosalyn threw open a cabinet.  It was a wardrobe with a mirror inside.  “Suffer in style, I guess.”  The door closed softly behind Tracy.


They dug through the first wardrobe and pulled out a hanger with a cotton tunic, a draped Greek abola, a gold wreath and gold sandals.  “I’m going to try it on,” said Rosalyn.  She stepped out of her clothes and slipped into the flowing garment of ancient design.  She looked in the mirror.  “How do I look?”


“You aren’t that old,” said Tracy. 


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